What Is A Progressive Christian?

Yesterday, Obie over at Spirit of a Liberal pointed to an essay written by Brad R. Braxton which defines progressive Christianity.

Braxton states:

According to some accounts, the term “progressive Christian” surfaced in the 1990s and began replacing the more traditional term “liberal Christian.” During this period, some Christian leaders wanted to increasingly identify an approach to Christianity that was socially inclusive, conversant with science and culture, and not dogmatically adherent to theological litmus tests such as a belief in the Bible’s inerrancy. The emergence of contemporary Christian progressivism was a refusal to make the false choice of “redeeming souls or redeeming the social order.”

I refer to this as the both/and concept as opposed to the either/or. Here’s what I mean, it has been my experience that conservative Christians say Christianity is about either redeeming souls or redeeming the social order…the two are incompatible.  (In fact, they would say it is only about redeeming souls.)  Progressive Christians say Christianity is about redeeming souls and redeeming the social order.  There is no fundamental inconsistency between the two.

Braxton goes on to say:

As a progressive Christian, I believe that Jesus came to transform social relationships as well as improve people’s individual spiritual conditions. I also believe that some of God’s noblest aspirations for our world are still being revealed and that our understanding of those divine intentions is being refined. The pastor and theologian James Forbes rightly insists that “Jesus was progressive” and “was open to having his understanding of truth and love broadened” (Whose Gospel? A Concise Guide to Progressive Protestantism, p. 2).

Consequently, those of us who bear Jesus’ name should creatively replicate Jesus’ progressive stance. Following Jesus requires us to turn our faces as much to the present and future as to the past. The good news of the gospel is progressively unfolding itself and inviting us to proceed with faith and flexibility, instead of an unyielding set of narrowly defined, rigid doctrines.

For Braxton, progressive Christianity and prophetic evangelical are synonymous terms.  Speaking of the prophetic nature of Christianity and the conflict in the term conservative Christianity, Braxton quotes

In our time, when many seem to think that Christianity goes hand in hand with right-wing visions of the world, it is important to remember that there has never been a conservative prophet. Prophets have never been called to conserve social orders that have stratified inequities of power and privilege and wealth; prophets have always been called to change them so all can have access to the fullest fruits of life. (The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of the Teachings of Jesus and How They Have Been Corrupted, p. 28)

Think about the role of the Prophets in the Old Testament, they weren’t called to keep things the same.

Anyways, I thought both posts were an interesting read.


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